It was late September, 1980. I had just started Grade 12. The excitement was building as word had leaked out that my favourite band, Led Zeppelin, were about to put tickets on sale for their latest North American tour.
Montreal would have been the city that made the most sense for a Calgarian to attend because the whole first leg of the tour was in the Eastern time zone. That was my plan. Get tickets, go to Montreal, see Zeppelin.
In 1977, the year of their previous tour, when they were as close as Seattle, I was still a little young to be tootling down to Seattle. 1980 was to be my time.
Alas, a week before the tickets were to go on sale, the bad news came. John Bonham had died. He died on a Thursday, in the middle of the night, and the news wasn’t in the paper until Saturday. I remember sitting at home reading the Saturday paper and seeing the article.
I can’t say I was devastated. I didn’t know John Bonham and, besides, that would be way too selfish an attitude. I was, however, massively crushed. Not only because the concert I had my heart set on would be cancelled but there would be no more Led Zeppelin.
All these years later I still rue the timing, not that I, or anyone else for that matter, had anything to do with the timing. Just a drag.
A few years ago, 1990, after Led Zeppelin released their DVD, showing live footage from the course of their career, my interest in them, which never really flagged, was at a peak again. I started searching for, and buying, bootlegs. I ended up owning around forty of them. They range from poor performances and sound quality, (Seattle 1977), to great performances, poor sound quality, (Madison Square Garden, 1972) to brilliant performances and great sound quality. There are actually quite a few of these but the pinnacle is Long Beach, July 1972. This was a concert which formed part of How the West Was Won live cd but, while the sound isn’t as clear as the officially released cd, it surpasses that one because it is unedited while still having great sound. Its four CD’s in length, perfect when one is on a long roadie by oneself, as I am wont to do.
And it is such a party. The music is just so dynamic, the band was still on the way up, trying to prove themselves, living off the synergy created by band and fans. In the medley section, the highlight is Hello Mary Lou. Just brilliantly performed.
But at this time, they still gave Jonesey an organ solo. The solo itself is good but when they break into Louie, Louie, it is the best. They play that song so well, from the organ acting as rhythm section to the fiery guitar solo to Plant’s soaring vocals.
And that is really what is at the heart of this blog – Robert Plant’s vocals.
I was actually very surprised when Led Zeppelin released the Celebration Day CD/DVD last year, the 2008 show in tribute of Ahmet Ertegun. I seriously didn’t think Plant could hit those notes anymore. He certainly doesn’t even try on his material with Alison Krause. But he did hit those notes and it was refreshing to hear those songs and Plant pushing his vocals.
That he did it for one night is amazing and shows what a talent he really is.
But all of this talk of a Zeppelin tour? Please stop. Jonesy, Page and Jason Bonham can all do their parts with ease. If anything, they are even better musicians now that at Zeppelin’s peak. But, they need a singer and surely Plant would destroy his voice forever if they had to do a series of 20 to 50 shows.
Plant gets a lot of grief for doing all these side projects to the detriment of re-forming Led Zeppelin. He shouldn’t. He knows, after all, that it’s his career, his voice, on the line. And he knows it couldn’t survive a massive Zeppelin tour.
Beyond that, however, is just this whole idea that you can re-capture lightning in a bottle. We had Led Zeppelin for 12 brilliant years. And then they were gone.
Let’s move on.